An initiative to spread awareness on the dwindling number of sparrows and ways to save the tiny birds.
A group of students in Coimbatore realised that there was something missing when they woke up every morning. They never got to hear the enthusiastic chirping of house sparrows. Soon, they joined the mission to protect the hapless birds whose population is found to be dwindling across continents.
“We attended an awareness class by researchers from Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON), and that is when we understood the plight of sparrows in neighbourhood. They told us about the need to protect sparrows and what we could do about it,” says Fiona Desimon (Std. VIII) and her friends from CMS Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Ganapathy.
Fiona said that a video that they were shown inspired her to join the project.
A painting competition on the theme “Sparrows” was conducted for the students as part of the awareness programme. The project is undertaken by 150 students who are members of the Eco Club. They are supported by researchers from SACON and Young Indians, a wing of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The study by SACON says that the decline in population of sparrows could be attributed to a number of factors including urbanisation, pollution, loss of habitat and scarcity of grains and insects that constitute their food. It was found that in some areas, the sparrows used electric meter boxes for nesting and this resulted in conflicts with humans. The switch from tiled roofs to concrete roofs in many areas had reduced the nesting space for sparrows.
H. Hajan Sheriff, principal, who takes an active interest in the project, says that the parents are very supportive and many had shown interest to get nests and feeders.
In the first stage, around 25 nest boxes and feeders were given to students. These wooden boxes are distributed by Yi Indians.
“I placed the box and feeder at my house. A sparrow came and nested in it. I change the water every day and refill food every week. I also clean the nest regularly,” says Binesh Raj B., of Std. VII. “We also tell our friends and neighbours whatever we learnt about the sparrow population in the city. While some listen to us keenly, many show little interest in this,” he adds.
Some of the students were disappointed that no sparrows turned up at their nest boxes. According to Suresh Kumar, Biology teachers and secretary of Eco Club, once they find out that no sparrows had come to a box, they moved it to somewhere else where more sparrows were spotted.
Students took field trips to Ganapathy Maanagar and Cheran Maanagar, as part of the club activities. The trips were conducted on Sundays. “Recently, we took 35 students to Cheran Maanagar. We helped them to observe and identify the areas where more sparrows were spotted,” Kumar said. “The project is in the beginning stage and there is more to be done,” he adds.